antique medical doctor using cannabis

Why Was Marijuana Made Illegal in the 1st Place?

With the thousands of stories, you hear about medical marijuana helping people with anxiety, pain, depression, PTSD and the overwhelming number of medical research and studies validating the benefits of cannabis, have you ever wondered why Marijuana was made illegal in the first place?

Did you know that it was a combination of personal agendas, racism and big businesses not wanting to lose profits in those businesses? Wealthy business owners partnered with the leading politicians and powerful media owners to promote a huge misinformation campaign that affected government policy. That would never happen today, right? Right?

Hi, I’m Dr. Joseph Rosado and I have spent the last seven years helping people with the assistance of medical marijuana and I would love to speak with you about how medical marijuana can help you.

Our Founding Fathers

Marijuana is the mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant. Hemp has deep historical roots in America. American colonies encouraged — and in some cases, even mandated — that farmers grow hemp since this was used for the production of rope, sails, and clothing. Hemp was allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. If you ever saw the movie Dazed and Confused where the characters are talking about George and Martha Washington having huge hemp farms, this is historically accurate. He wasn’t the only advocate of this miraculous plant. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, and others-including Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine wrote of hemp’s virtues and necessity for a modern seagoing nation.

Domestic production flourished until after the Civil War, when imports and other domestic materials replaced hemp. In the late nineteenth century, marijuana, the derivative of hemp, became a popular ingredient in many medicinal products and was sold openly in public pharmacies, thanks largely in part to the findings of the well-known and respected Sir Dr. William O’Shaughnessy who documented the numerous health benefits of marijuana. Many doctors that followed him had similar results. Cannabis extract was used to treat insomnia, headaches, stomach pains, and other illnesses. It became a common item carried in the home doctor medicine bag.

(Science Note! Cannabis extracts include cannabinoids. These are chemical compounds found throughout the cannabis plant with a high concentration in “hairs” that cover the buds and leaves. The most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is the most common cannabinoid associated with euphoric and psychoactive effects. CBD is associated with several therapeutic effects without the psychoactive. Therapeutic effects of both may include muscle relaxation, pain relief, and anti-inflammatory.- Dr. Joe.)

Even though the medicinal benefits were clear, attitudes shifted as America entered the 20th century and the Mexican Revolution took place. Prejudices against immigrants from Mexico caused individuals to associate marijuana with violence and other ill-founded projections of racial difference. This prejudice was flamed with completely fabricated stories and tales that were in the highlights of the media of the day.

According to some historical records, Media mogul William Randolph Hearst – the owner of pretty much every magazine and newspaper in America at that time supported the criminalization of marijuana, in part because Hearst’s paper-producing companies were being replaced by hemp. Likewise, DuPont’s investment in nylon was threatened by hemp products since hemp grew and reproduced so much faster.

Tensions also grew between small and large farms, that latter of which often used cheap Mexican labor. Since many of the migrant laborers smoked marihuana, it was thought that banning marijuana would encourage them to go back home, thus freeing jobs for unemployed Americans. Those tensions were further amplified with the onset of the Great Depression as jobs became even scarcer.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930, and the naming of Harry J.
Anslinger as its director was the beginning of the war on marijuana. With the help of the aforementioned newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Anslinger began the campaign to make marijuana illegal at the federal level.

The government used fear, prejudice, racism, and false stories of uncontrollable violence and falsities to demonize marijuana. When movies came into popular public usage, advertisements ran in theaters and newspapers around the country warning of the evils and dangers of its use:
“Beware! Young and Old – People in All Walks of Life! It contains the Killer Drug “Marihuana” – a powerful narcotic in which lurks Murder! Insanity! Death!” Stories were told of people who became insane and uncontrollable criminals as a result of smoking marijuana. Marihuana was repeatedly referred to as “The Devil’s Harvest” or “Devil’s Weed” and many preachers talked about the evils of its usage to their congregation.

The billboards and movie posters from this era speak louder than words. Remember that the United States as a country was still mired in the Great Depression and about to enter World War II. The patriotic sentiment and faith at the time just could not comprehend that the government would lie to its citizens. Unfortunately, the evidence uncovered shows that it did just that.

Reefer Madness

A government financed movie named ‘Reefer Madness’ was released in 1936. Among other things, it showed ‘evidence’ of how the lives of four high school students, lured to try marijuana by a drug pusher, spiraled out of control. The movie included a hit and run accident, a suicide, a homicide, rape, and the rapid descent of marihuana users into madness. The so-called ‘evidence’ in Reefer Madness was later proven to be utterly false.
After a two-hour committee hearing and a 92-second debate on the house floor, marijuana was de facto criminalized by Congress with the passage of The Marihuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937, signed into law by President F.D. Roosevelt. A violation of the Tax Stamp Act was a felony with a maximum fine of $2,000 and/or 5 years in prison. You couldn’t get a stamp for marijuana unless you had the product. You couldn’t get the product unless you had the stamp. Not one marijuana stamp was ever approved.

Although the federal government arbitrarily determined that marijuana had no medicinal use, every study that has been done to date has proven these assertions wrong. Scientific study and research of marijuana began in the 1950’s; each study has concluded that marijuana does have medicinal qualities particularly in management of pain. Surprisingly, unlike standard narcotic pain killers, marijuana is not physically addictive.

A Changing Tide

A changing political and cultural climate was reflected in more lenient attitudes towards marijuana in the 60s and 70s. Use of the drug became more widespread in the white upper/middle class. Reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson found that marijuana use did not induce violence nor lead to use of heavier drugs. Policy towards marijuana began to involve considerations of treatment as well as reviewing the criminal penalties.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, the medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The recreational or adult-use of cannabis has been approved in DC and 23 states. In Florida specifically, prior to June 2014, all forms of cannabis were illegal-including marijuana for medical use. We started towards the right path when former governor, Rick Scott, signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 1030) into law for “low-THC”, and in June of 2016, “The Right to Try Act” was added to the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, allowing the use of high-THC for terminally ill patients.

On June 23, 2017, following the resounding “YES” vote by the citizens in the state of Florida in November of 2016 for Amendment 2 aka The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, then Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 8A also known as the “Medical Use of Marijuana”, which provides an exemption from the state tax on sales, use, and other transactions for marijuana and marijuana delivery devices used for medical purposes; provides qualifying medical conditions for a patient to be eligible to receive marijuana or a marijuana delivery device; provides for the establishment of medical marijuana testing laboratories; establishing the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Inc., etc. 

I am glad that this act passed because people who have used every other avenue to relieve pain, anxiety, PTSD, and numerous other medical conditions often have found no relief or improvement from these symptoms until they tried medical marijuana. I would love to discuss some medical or mental challenges you may be facing and see how I can help you.

Dr. Joseph “Joe” Rosado